There's more to Shawn Colvin
WANT TO GO?
"Mountain Stage" with Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin
Also Aoife O'Donovan, Marti Jones & Don Dixon and Ari Hest
WHERE: Clay Center
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday
TICKETS: Advance $30, at the door $35
INFO: 304-561-3570 or www.theclaycenter.org.
The 1997 hit helped Colvin sell a lot of records (the album went platinum) and win two Grammy awards. She said she doesn't resent having to play it.
"I really love that song," she said. "And I'm lucky it isn't some novelty, weird thing that I did. There's nothing wrong with it," said the singer/songwriter who appears Saturday at Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg and Sunday on "Mountain Stage" at the Clay Center.
"Sunny Came Home" is a fair representation of the kind of musical storytelling that's a big part of Colvin's body of work.
Still, how the song came about is odd. It wasn't based on some story she'd heard, wasn't inspired by true-life events or even meant intentionally as a particular comment about the human condition.
"The song came from a couple of places," Colvin explained. "John Leventhal had written the music and I had a melody, but I didn't know lyrically what to make of it. I didn't know what to do."
Colvin said it was the last song they planned to put on the record, which at the time didn't have a name -- just a collection of songs and some cover art.
"It was a painting of a friend of mine named Julie Speed. It was an image of a woman with a lit match."
The songwriter figured she could just write about the woman in the picture, who appeared to be starting a fire. The phrase in the song, "It's time for a few small repairs" (which also gave the album its title), was inspired by another of Speed's paintings.
But as for who Sunny was, Colvin said she didn't really know. There wasn't a Sunny.
"It just sang well," she said. "Lyrically, I work hard but things have to sing nice. They have to flow nicely and that reins in things for me, but 'Sunny Came Home' wasn't a difficult song for me to write.
"I don't know where I came up with those images."
Of course, Colvin's career neither began nor ended with the success of "Sunny Came Home." She had three albums before "A Few Small Repairs," including her debut, "Steady On," which won her a Grammy.
Since the success of "Sunny Came Home," Colvin has released four studio albums, two "Best of" records and a live album. She's also toured regularly. This time, she's out on the road with country singer Mary Chapin Carpenter.
"It's not entirely an evening of duets, but there are some," Colvin said. "We're on stage together the whole evening and liken it to being in our living room.
"We chat, and we play our own songs. We sing on one another's songs. We do some covers and some duets, things like that."
Colvin said she and Carpenter have been friends for years. The met in the mid-1980s at The Birchmere, a famous club in Alexandria, Va.
Colvin was playing at the club. Carpenter came out to see her and then introduced herself. They hit it off pretty quickly.
"She was witty and humble and genuine," Colvin said. "It was easy to get to know her."
They hung out some here and there, but then both their careers took off. They kept in touch, stayed friends, recorded and toured together.
"We just have a good simpatico together," Colvin said.
Colvin likes working with friends. Her last record, 2012's "All Fall Down," had a lot of collaboration with other artists. There were some, like Leventhal, who she'd worked with before; others, like PattyGrifin, she's been friends with for years; and even one or two people she admires, like Jakob Dylan.
"I just know him a little bit," she said. "He's an extremely nice person, and, I think, extremely talented. I just asked him if he'd like to write something and not only did he say yes, but he actually did it."
Colvin said a lot of the songwriting with partners these days doesn't take place in the same room. It's done by email, which works just fine for her.
She's pretty happy with touring with Carpenter and playing songs off her most recent record, but there's not much of a hurry for her to get back in the studio to come up with something new.
Reach Bill Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5195.